The Biden administration’s proposed new rule on ghost guns, or firearms made at home without serial numbers and therefore untraceable, was blocked by a lower court.
However, the U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily “stayed” this decision until October 16th. Gun manufacturers contesting the regulation have been given until October 11th to submit their arguments for consideration before the Court issues its final ruling.
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas issued an injunction because he found that the rule exceeded its authority under federal law, as it included “partially manufactured firearm components, related firearm products, and other tools and materials.”
The 5th Circuit subsequently narrowed this ruling only to invalidate parts of the rule while allowing the rest to stand pending appeal.
In response to this situation, President Joe Biden’s administration appealed directly to the Supreme Court with an urgent request for a stay on Judge O’Connor’s decision while awaiting review by legal parties involved in the case.
Four conservative justices — Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh — dissented against this order; however they were overruled by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson along with Amy Coney Barrett who all voted in favor of upholding the regulation.
Two key provisions are currently being debated: Firstly that certain parts kits be recognized within federal definition of a “firearm,” and secondly, defining frame or receiver as including disassembled parts easily convertible into working firearms according to ATF regulations regarding serial numbers, background checks etc..
Gun rights advocates have been granted one week from Justice Samuel Alito’s emergency order pause as they formulate their responses prior to any final rulings being made by the Supreme Court.
“The district court’s universal vacatur is irreparably harming the public and the government by reopening the floodgates to the tide of untraceable ghost guns flowing into our Nation’s communities,” the Justice Department wrote in its request.
“Once those guns are sold, the damage is done: Some will already be in the hands of criminals and other prohibited persons — and when they are inevitably used in crimes, they are untraceable.”
The Biden Administration reported that the number of firearms submitted to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for tracing has increased dramatically since 2017 – from approximately 1,600 to more than 19,000 in 2021.
They raised concerns about a lower court ruling which would prohibit certain provisions across the board. This case is one of several involving “ghost guns” currently being adjudicated in court.
The plaintiffs have been given until Wednesday to respond to the administration’s request per Justice Alito’s order.
“We’re elated that the Fifth Circuit has seen through ATF’s unpersuasive arguments and has determined that ATF failed to show it is likely to win on appeal,” said Cody J. Wisniewski, an attorney at Firearms Policy Coalition, one of the groups challenging the rule.
“ATF lost at the district court and has now lost its first bite at the Fifth Circuit; we look forward to continuing to win against ATF’s unlawful and unconstitutional gun control regime,” he added.
“Every speaker of English would recognize that a tax on sales of ‘bookshelves’ applies to IKEA when it sells boxes of parts and the tools and instructions for assembling them into bookshelves,” the Justice Department wrote. “The court’s insistence on treating guns differently contradicts ordinary usage and makes a mockery of Congress’s careful regulatory scheme.”
The administration has requested that the Supreme Court either hear the case and arrange for oral arguments this fall, or block the ruling from the district court.
Should they choose to do the latter, then the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ scheduled oral argument on September 7 would no longer be necessary.